Friday, December 23, 2011

It looks like Christmas

For the first time in a long time, Christmas has been more about the waiting, the looking, the anticipation this year. Though the to-do list remains, it doesn't weigh on my heart and mind nearly as much as the 8-pound baby boy we celebrate. He continues to clear a path to the manger...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

For the kids, by the kids

We have something on a Christmas tradition around our house – one I'd like to see the end of, quite frankly. It goes like this: around December 23 or 24, Abigail decides she wants to do some Christmas shopping and buys gifts for her parents and siblings. So Toby takes her out, fighting last minute crowds, to try to find something meaningful and inexpensive. Then, the other kids realize what's going on and they want to go shopping too, but there is no way either of us is willing to head back out into the fray. Therefore, they are somewhat disgruntled.
I had a different idea this year: what if they started making gifts ahead of time? They all liked the idea, so I met with each of them individually to see what they wanted to make. Some of their ideas were pretty off the wall, but with some guidance, they've each come up with some cute gift plans for their siblings that they can do mostly by themselves.
Abigail has made Anna and Ellie each a scarf. Honestly, I don't think it gets much easier than this, folks. We measured a piece of remnant fleece from JoAnn's, cut and fringed. It took us maybe 15 minutes to do both. If you've got any really last minute gifts to give, let it be this!

 Anna's made a dolly scarf for Abi (well, for the doll, really, but you get the point) and some mittens for Ellie. The mittens were basically a matter of borrowing a pair of Ellie's gloves and tracing the pattern onto an old sweater, cutting and sewing. Because Anna's not too experienced with the sewing machine yet, I helped with the stitching. The other thing she made was this little hat for Dan. While again I did the machine work, she cut out the little star and did the hand sewing. This is what takes most of the time, anyway.

I think I'm most excited about Noah's gifts. For Abi and Anna, he's made knitting needles! So cute! Helpfully, the girls do actually knit, and I think they'll really like these. We took some wooden dowels that I had set aside in my craft closet (originally bought at JoAnn's, I believe) and gave them a gentle sanding. Then we rubbed them down with some leather wax. Once Noah chose the buttons he thought the girls would like from my button collection, I used the hot glue gun to stick them on. To be honest, I've seen this done with polymer clay, which would probably work better, but I really wanted to stick with what I had on hand for this one. I'm really happy with how it all turned out!

Clearly, we have more to do, but I'm pleased with the "jump" we got on things, relatively speaking. I'm looking forward to seeing what else their creative juices inspire.
So, how does everyone else handle joy of sibling gifting? Inquiring minds want to know!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Knitting

Slowly but surely, we're getting there...
Dan's vest is complete:
The pattern is Kid's Vest from More Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Yarn is the wonderful-to-work-with Spud & Chloe Sweater, color Chipmunk. Perfect.
I'm currently working on a matching one for Noah. I'm not sure I'll finish in time, but we'll see how it goes.
A sweater that even the fuss-budget likes!

Pattern is Drive Thru, downloaded on ravelry. Yarn is all Cascade 220 Heathers.
I had to modify it quite a bit: Abi is such a skinny minny that I made it up for size 8, which fits her perfectly around the body, but left the waist and arms very short. I added about six inches ( six inches!!) to the length for both the body and arms. Love.

I'm still working on Toby's Man Vest, and I don't think I'll finish before Christmas. Now that I'm at the final stages of finishing the neck and armholes, I'm running out of yarn. I'm not confident that I've got enough to finish, but I'm that somehow it'll last. Who knows - the widow's oil didn't run out, so maybe God will sustain my yarn supply? Knitting in faith, this is.

Monday, December 19, 2011

For the little girls...

...there are a couple new items that might be of interest... the shop.

Multitude Mondays

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17
  • Seeing Ellie really swimming on her own
  • Seeing Anna really give her best at public speaking
  • fun Christmas parties
  • our new Senior Pastor!
  • celebrating my Mom's 60th birthday at her surprise party - that was actually a surprise!
  • watching the kids play Red Rover from my spot by the fire
  • how the big kids so often let the little kids win
  • babies that sleep in your arms
  • the end of Christmas shopping
  • waking up early in a cold, quiet house
  • fresh coffee


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finding the counter

I have years of experience battling the paper pile. I think most people do, and most people wage war on it in a number of ways. Me, I've long used the "Pile and Hide" tactic: the one where it sits and grows and breeds until company comes over and you quickly sweep it all undercover until it can be weeded through. Then, of course, you realize that this is multi-phased operation, since you eventually unearth it all and have to go through old mail, overdue bills and forgotten invitations (and this may take a while).
Needless to say, this method was not ensuring much success. In fact, it seemed to be working as a double agent - the problem only ever got worse, instead of better. But one day, I was looking at Pintrest and found an idea. (I don't remember who did it, but I'm sure you could find it if you really wanted to.) I took the idea, went for a shopping trip to Target, made a few little tweaks of my own, and this is what I came up with:

Contained within my handy-dandy counter file are about 10 or so files suited to my needs: "For Action" (for bills to be paid or anything that needs to be dealt with), "For Filing" (since our filing cabinet is in another room, it seemed sensible to have a holding place for all those papers), "Homeschool" (to keep track of our current curriculum, possible future curriculum details, and any extra school-related forms), & "Sales and Circulars" (for all the sale & coupons that come through the mail - those that I might actually use, that is) to name a few. I also keep in the box my Thankful journal, my weekly/monthly planner (when it's not in my bag) and my "Brain" - basically a glorified daily to-do list in a composition book.

Honestly, it makes me happy. I like the feeling of having a place for it all, and a place I can find it all in to boot. It's been easy to keep in order, too. When a file gets a little thick, I go through and deal with it, whether that means throwing out old stuff, using the current or moving the "keepers" to a permanent file.
As it turns out, I seem to have found a counter top under all that mess. I had almost forgotten it was there.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Multitude Monday

In no particular order:
* Toby staying home from work to care for me and the kids when I didn't feel well
* Only being in bed for a day before feeling lots better
* doing some Christmas-gift making with the kids
* being invited to a friends' house for dinner, and having a wonderful time!
* taking the kids to see the Abingdon Lights (if you're local, try to visit!)
* frost on the ground
* a good doctor's report for a friend
* money to cover the bills, and then some
* remembering how He reached out for me...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trying to Breathe

It's happening.

Despite doing my best to keep on top of all that comes with the Christmas season and all that we've turned it into, I'm gasping for air.

I don't yet feel like there's no time (I think I've got another couple weeks before that feeling slides in), but it's more that everything's happening at once. In a family of 5 children, 3 of which are homeschooling, there's a general, everyday sense of keeping those juggling balls in the air, but adding in the extra shopping, the extra cooking, the extra self-imposed craft deadlines (how's that for a joykill?), the parties and events, the decorating, and the determination to do fun things with the kids rather than sidelining them for my whirling-dervish routine, has steadily been working at edging out the whole purpose of why we do this.

And why do we do this? Not the "Jesus is the Reason for the Season"- this, but the crazy-this? Is Jesus the reason I make myself crazy with the to-do list? Not really. He never asked for all this, never suggested that the calendar overflow along with the cup. I think I do it because I like it. I like seeing people, cooking, making things for myself and others, and trying to make this time of year special. But I'm finding that when it's all about me, what I'd like to accomplish and do, then it's no longer about Jesus. And, I have to face it; I'm not a worthy substitute.

So, am I going to stop the world and get off for a while? I don't think so. After all, I really do enjoy a lot of what I'm doing. But I'm going to be more selective, weighing the worth of my investments to their eventual payoff. Part of me wants my kids to say when they are grown, "Christmas, growing up, was really fun and full of excitement", but if that's all they say, then I've essentially humanized the holiday and lost its wonder and power. What I'd love to hear is, "Part of the reason I love Christmas now is because my parents showed me the joy of Jesus". If I'm not careful, what they'll really say is, "My mom made Christmas an exercise in chaos and the need for anger management because of overestimating her abilities and underestimating the need for peace." Who wants that?

I want to see Jesus this Christmas. I want to look expectantly to Christmas morning, not for stuff under the tree, but for the baby who came to save me from all the nonsense I would attach to His birthday, and so much more. I want my kids to see Jesus, too – to find Him more wonderful than the tree and the lights and the gifts. So everything I do to make this time special must point to Him, since He really is the reason for this season. I'm confident He'll fill my lungs with breath and my heart with the love I need for this task.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Multitude Mondays

In these crazy days leading up to Christmas, fraught with all we need and would like to do, I'm finding it necessary to pause, take a deep breath, and whisper thanks for all He has provided. In the doing, I remember what and whom I am celebrating...

  • an early Christmas gift - a new laptop
  • my Care Group (church home group)
  • a freshly organized cupboard (finally finding things - can't beat it!)
  • both girls gave impromptu speeches without distress (a major grace, this!)
  • the Christmas tree is up and decorated!
  • the nice men our housing association sent to take care of a precarious dead pine behind our property
  • having a really nice mail man
  • the ability to do so much shopping online
  • a smooth dentist visit for my big girl
  • playing games with a neighbor
  • having a laugh at Toby's work Christmas party